By Maria Caspani and Jonathan Allen
NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has agreed with the City Council to cut $1 billion from the New York Police Department’s funding in the municipal budget for the 2021 fiscal year, which is due to be passed later on Tuesday, even as some lawmakers described the cuts as insufficient.
The budget negotiations were shaped by two crises that have shaken the city.
The coronavirus pandemic created a $9 billion shortfall in revenue, leading to deep cuts across city agencies, including the possibility that some 22,000 municipal workers could be laid off by the mayor later this year if labor unions cannot help find savings elsewhere.
And a month of nationwide protests against police violence gave new political heft to calls to defund police departments, forcing de Blasio to shift from his original April proposal of cutting NYPD funding by less than 1% while slashing youth services. Thousands of protesters began camping outside City Hall last week in what they called an occupation, demanding deep cuts to police funding.
“It’s time to do the work of reform, to think deeply about where our police have to be in the future,” de Blasio told reporters on Tuesday.
The NYPD’s $6 billion operating budget will be cut through overtime reductions, the cancellation of the July class of more than 1,000 new recruits, and the transfer of some responsibilities out of the NYPD, de Blasio said.
He would also restore some summer youth programs he had originally canceled.
A minority of left-wing lawmakers have criticized the cuts as insufficient and said they would oppose the budget’s passage later on Tuesday at a vote convened by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
They complain the proposal does not reduce the current number of police officers in the city, and that a large portion of what the mayor has called a $1 billion cut consists of transferring responsibility of school safety officers from the NYPD to the Department of Education.
Communities United for Police Reform, a coalition of 200 community groups which originally called for a $1 billion cut to the NYPD’s budget, said their demands were still not being met.
“Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Johnson are using funny math and budget tricks to try to mislead New Yorkers,” Anthonine Pierre, a spokesperson for the coalition, said in a statement. “Moving police from the NYPD to other agencies does nothing to reduce police violence.”
New York Public Advocate Jumaane Williams also criticized the proposed budget, saying he would invoke an obscure provision in the City’s Charter and refuse to sign tax warrants in order to stop it being deployed in the absence of what he called “a commitment to true school safety reform.”
The total city budget comes to $88.1 billion, de Blasio said, down from $95.3 billion he had proposed earlier in the year.
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Bernadette Baum)